DRIVING LESSONS


Jamie Drivingn

Yesterday we bumped into two friends we havent seen for ages.  In fact they are Jamies Grade 1 and Grade 7 teachers.  Jamie was driving the car and one looked at me and said, “I found the two most stressful parts of being a parent was choosing the matric dress and teaching my children to drive”.  And this comes from a well seasoned educator.

The story goes like this ……….

The word was out, everybody was failing their learners licence …….. by one point.

Sentences like …… moneymaking scam, and waste of time was being brandished around.  Booking the licence alone meant a full day out of school …… I kid you not.  We arrived at the traffic department at 7.00 am and Jamie was given ticket number 14 – he walked out of there at 1.00 pm ……… now this was to BOOK.

Well the day to write arrived, exactly one month after his 17th birthday, and in went a group of youngsters all looking very nervous.

Jamie being Jamie, had only done enough studing that was required in Jamieland ……. or 17 year old teen land.

All the parents waited outside (wish I had gone shopping because it took ages).

Jamie walks out ……. a sad look on his face.

“I failed by one point ……….. ”

“Phone your father ……”

“Dad I failed by one point”

At this Frans launches into one of those Dad lectures.  You know the ones …… “Son I told you to learn harder” and “I told you to learn for an extra hour” and “I hope you will take the next time seriously”.

Mid Dad lecture Jamie bursts into a HUGE grin and says “Just Kidding!!!!” and hauls out a piece of paper – HIS LEARNERS LICENCE.

I got such a fright that I tossed him the keys …. learning to drive starts NOW.

Now being who we are, we really dont allow the kids to do things before they are legally allowed to do it, no driving, drinking, going to bars etc.  So Jamie has had extremely little driving experience apart from parking the car at home – mmmmm now that I think about it thats about it (that I know of).

So off we go to grab a celebration bite to eat, and then to drive home from Humansdorp.

I get into the passenger side of my car and Jamie gets behind the wheel.

After much adjusting of the seat and steering wheel and shoofling in the seat, he looks at me ………

“Put on your safety belt”.  Good start.

AND-THEN-WE-START-JOLTING-DOWN-THE-ROAD-ONE-METER-AT-A-TIME.

“How am I doing?”, he asks as he stalls at the stop street.

“Very Good”, I say with gritted teeth after managing to peel my cheek of the windscreen.

NOTE TO SELF – Maybe the first driving lesson should be done at a deserted salt pan in Nevada …..
 or something.

So we stop round the corner of the stop street and I go through a couple of basics.  Like how to go into first gear.

Off we go.  Not so rattly the second time.

I begin to notice that my right foot is starting to tramp an imaginary brake, my right hand constantly moves towards the manual gear shift.

Then he puts the left hand indicator on for the first time and the car veers straight to the left.  I clamp my left hand on the passenger window.

He speeds up to 40 kmph.  “Slow down Jamie!!!!!!”  I yell.

“But its a 120 zone” he says.  I have to add here that Jamie has probable spent more time on wheels on the Humansdorp/St Francis Bay Road …….. Bicycle wheels, there is a difference.

We agree that 60 kmph is a good starter speed.

My body is rigid and pushing hard against the seat,  my left foot has made its way to between the dashboard and the windscreen, my right food is pumping an imaginary brake, my right hand is hovering above the gear shift and my left hand is still firmly flattened against the passenger window.

I am trying to be positive but my throat has completely sanded up and my mouth is opening and closing like a fish.  My eyes are wide and nostrils flared.

“Good driving Jamie”, I rasp.

“I know”  he replies.

A friend of ours overtakes us and toots and gives the thumbs up sign.  Jamie waves and the car veers to the right.  Me, well, I dont have any body parts left to do anything.

So there we drive the 16 kilometers home and into the driveway.

As we stop, Jamie looks at me with a huge grin on his face.

“Well that was great!!!!! and you didnt shout at me at all!!!!!”

I smile.

“Well done boy”  I croak.

…………… It took me 45 minutes to get out of the seat.  Now I have 4 years to worry about the dress.

 

ITS ALL ABOUT THE T-SHIRT!


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With advertising by-lines like RIDE THIS ONE YOU WILL REMEMBER IT, and ARE YOU TOUGH ENOUGH?.  The annual Steeltek race at the Lurie Ruskamp promised to be at the very least a tough one.

Now Jamie and the Steeltek race have a history, and not a happy one ……… he has yet to finish a Steeltek with both himself and/or his bike intact …….. in fact …….. he has yet to finish a Steeltek race full stop.

Add to the mix this will be his last ride on his beloved Merida 29’er (its got to go up for sale on behalf of the sponsor to make way for the new …… to be announced).  Boy did he love this bike.

Add to this there is only one race this year, no kiddie dash, no family ride, no 30 kay – only 60 km and on a new course set to challenge the riders to their limits.  There is 2000 meters of climbing (more than the Karoo to Coast).  You are asked to check out the race profile before the race so that you dont start too fast.

Add to this ……. the Mountain Events, Fat Tracks and Steeltek have  dangled a once off cherry to the participants.  Finish the race in Sub-4 hours and you will get a special T-shirt.  Oh there was a nifty amount of prize money, but the T-shirt was the real cherry.

Add to this the weather has been playing up as normal.

All the riders wanted that T-shirt.  Top local and not so local riders started entering the race.

As we set off, Frans shouts to us, still under the comfort of his downy duvet.  “There is enough petrol to go 120 km – it will be plenty”

IT WASNT

As we hit the J-bay turnoff it was as if the petrol tank started sucking its own juice.  50 kays left it said.  Crossing the Gamtoos – 30 kays (impossible! its not 20 km from J-bay turnoff to Gamtoos.  By the time we hit the Thornhill turn off it said 10 km.  We limped into Lurie.

Now,  Lurie is cycling heaven, all the names are there.  Lots of really nice bikes.  Lots of bike talk.  Eventually the cyclists set off.

Did I mention that Lurie Ruskamp is in the middle of nowhere, except, close to Lurie.  To my horror I find out that Lurie does NOT have a petrol station and somehow I must get petrol in Hankey .

“How far is Hankey?”  I ask .

“20 km” the oke says.

“Oh dear”  I say “I only have enough petrol to go 10 km”

“Ag then its about 10, but dont worry its all downhill”  He retorts.

I decided since its a four hour wait I will try my luck at getting to Hankey, and if I get stuck I will phone a friend at the race.

Off I go, as I start the car the light starts beeping ………. 0 km’s it says.  I decide to see it through.

Now next time someone says to you “Its all downhill”, dont believe them.  I have never been so happy to see Sarah Baartmans grave in my life, I think I made hankey on fumes in the Ford.

Anyway …….. The car and I get back armed with 300 bucks in the tank and now I can relax.

The race has started claiming it first victims.  Last year, at this race I saw one oke limp home with s SQUARE wheel, I kid you not, it was square.

After 2h31 mins Jason Meaton flew in ….. “Shew that was tough”

Ten mins later Conrad Viljoen ….. “Tough”

and a mere 4 minutes later Jason Reed ……. “Toughest Ever!!!!”

And these guys are top top riders at the peak of their game.

More casualties came in, and still Jamie and his friend Nick are out there.

The riders start dribbling in, each of them heaving a sigh of relief as they come over the finsh.

At the 3 hour 40 mark I see Jamie in his Custom Bike shirt comming up the big finish hill.  He had made the 4 hour cut off AND he had got the T-shirt.  A few minutes later Nick came in …… he also got a T-shirt.

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The last sub 4’s dribbled in, and then the wait began for the rest of the field.  The question on everyones lips as they rode in was “Did you get the T-shirt?”

The T-shirt was important, 4 pieces of white cotton sewn together with some printing on it became a major aquisition at the Steeltek.  I proved that you were Tough Enough.

Which all got me thinking. Sometimes we need these physical reminders that we are good enough.

Rosie and Jamie gave Frans  a mug which says # 1 DaD,  he knows he is a good Dad, but boy does he love his mug.  Many years ago ……… many many years ago, Jamie painted Rosie a mug saying “MY BEST SISTER”, that she is his only sister is irrelevant, after he gave her the mug they were nice to each other for about two minutes and then the bickering started again.  I keep the mug in memory of those two minutes.

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I have a sticker …….. yes a sticker saying “MOMS TAXI” ……….. mmmmmm, I wonder …. does this mean I am tough enough?

THE RED TENT


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I really love my friends.  They are funny, compassionate and most of all, they do not take themselves too seriously.

Our tight little group of 6 friends are all different ages, different home environments, different interests and completely different career paths.  But we gel and we have lots of fun.

We call ourselves the Bokkies, bit stupid isnt it?

Anyway ………. by some quirk of nature 4 of our group ended up at the annual Karoo 2 Coast cycle race.  Remember the one ………. 100 kays of hell from Uniondale to Knysna “not for the faint hearted!”.

1 of the Bokkies was actually entered into the race and the 3 lazy couch potatoes left were drivers and support for our husbands.  We each traveled with our siblings in tow.

To say the least finding accommodation in Uniondale the night before the race, is near but impossible unless you book a year in advance.  So to get us all in one place we decided to opt for the campsite on the local high school grounds.  It wasnt cheap, R250.00 per tent for the night and a tent is enough to fit a single mattrass in it and that is it!  You dont get bedding, just a tent and a bare mattress.  Each family books two tents, one for the adults and one for the kids ……. a squash but it was only for one night.  Oh …….. you also get the use of the outside school showers and loo’s – 2 showers and 6 loo’s.

We get there, unpack, check bikes, gps, go-pro’s and tents and all amble down to the showgrounds where 5000 odd other cyclists, families and friends are all converging.  We eat in the massive hall and then amble on back to tent-camp for a good nights sleep.

At about 6 pm we started getting the inkling that the night was going to be cold and I mean really cold …….. as in low single figures or minus figure cold.

Frans and I realise very quickly that it simply wasnt going to work having Jamie and Rosie share a single mattress in a tiny little red tent so we give our tent to Rosie and we pitch our own little tent next to our car – about a 100 meters from the red tents.  We have our last cup of coffee, say our goodnights to all our mates and snuggle in for the evening.

But boy did a lot happen after dark ……….. this is the story

Now (lets call her) Bokkie 1 has a complete aversion to public toilets and bathrooms.  They scar her.  She keeps an “emergency” kit in her handbag of hand sanitisers, toilet seat cleaning sanitisers (didnt know you got these!), wet wipes, tissue paper ……. the lot …… just in case she may have to use the public ablution system.  A school toilet in the middle of a rugby field is a nightmare for her.  Porta-potties are out of the question.  So in the middle of a sub-zero degree night when she wakes up and has an urge she knows she is in trouble.

She prods her hubby …….. “Honey please come to the toilet with me I’m scared” .  The bathrooms are quite far from the tents.

“Dont be scared”  He reassures her “Just scream if something goes wrong and I will be there in a flash!”

So off she goes, clips her headlamp on, and leaves the zip on the tent unzipped and goes to the loo.  She ran to the loos as if her life depended on it.  She forgets her “emergency bag”, but all she want to do is get back to her nice warm tent.

Now getting to the loos is a piece of cake,  returning to her tent was another story.  She dashes out of the toilets and looks at the sea of red tents with dismay.

“Which one is ours?”  She thinks “Oh!! thats right I left the zip open”.  She carries on running up and down, even listening for the heavy snorer who, as luck had it, was in the tent next to them.

Just as she was going to scream her hubbies name she spots the unzipped tent.  Opens the flap and sees that her hubby has wrapped their beige and white duvet completely around himself AND he has positioned himself in the middle of the mattress.

“Where am I supposed to lie now”, she says sarcastically.

So her hubbies feet, which are now his head, raised up and says “ya ya ya”, she quickly looks at his head, which should have been the feet and notices the face is not quite the same as her hubbies.   At this point she blinds the poor oke with her head torch.  “Can I help you” says the feet, head ……….. whatever!

“Oh Figtree”    Screeches Bokkie 1 and stumbles out of the tent that wasn”t quite hers.

Two tents down Bokkie 2 wakes up with the same urge.  Now she has a real problem, she is sleeping with her 5 year old little boy ……. and if she leaves and he wakes up, leaves the tent, gets lost in Uniondale ……….. .  Now what can she do?  She starts fumbling in the dark and feels or rathers smells something familiar ……… baby powder ………

“Ummm ……. this could work”.  After some amazing acrobatic and contortionist movements the deed is done.  But what to do with the bottle.  Under the mattress it goes.

Next to the car, I have refused to remove any item of clothing because it is so cold.  I am in the tent sleeping with all my clothes, even my tekkies, beenie, hoodie the lot.  Frans is mumbling that he has never slept next to a “Bergie” before.

At about 3 am there is some loud knocking on the tent.  I sit up scared to death …… The uniondale ghost?

The tent is like an igloo ……. it is totally covered with a sheet of ice.

“I’m cold” , Says the ghost

“No shit sherlock!”  I reply to ghostie who sounds remarkably like Rosie.

“ROSIE!!!!!”  I question

“Yes Mommy”,  She must be really cold to be calling me Mommy.

So I crack open the tent, and in my bergie clothes bundle her into the car.

The next morning we all wake up.  Jamie stretches as says …… “What a great nights sleep”

Bokkie 1 refuses to leave her tent.

Bokkie 2’s Hubby asks ……….. “Sweetheart …….. wheres the baby powder??????”

 

SOUTH AFRICAN XCO CHAMPIONSHIPS


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As parents it is one of our prime jobs to keep our children as safe as possible.  If we had anything to do with anything when it came to kids, in retrospect,  we would have promoted chess or scrabble to be our kids primary sports activities.

I must admit we have ridden many races in which Jamie has participated and REALLY if I can do it, it has got to be safe because I am about as brave as a coat of red lipstick on a mouth so wrinkled that it doesnt even have a clear outline.

Against all safe judgement we pack up our tent, bike and family to support Jamie in his quest to be part of the South African XCO Championships.

I should have started to get worried when I asked Jamie if there what anything I should pack for him? ……..

“The medical aid box”

“OH!”

But ….. anyway …… here we are the day before the SA XCO, in Hayterdale, at the bottom of the Zuurberg Pass  – it is practice day and there are just bikes and more bikes all over the place.  We have arrived in cycling heaven.

First job is to set up the tent, and, I kid you not, what normally takes about an hour of fighting, arguing and stomping …….. took precisely 8,2 minutes ……. Jamie needed to get onto the track to practice.

Off he goes and we wander around.  There are posters of the race plastered here and there (see above) and we start getting an inkling that this race is not for the faint hearted and these “obstacles” don’t look what I would categorize as safe.

In XCO terms the race is described as exciting.

So ……. after a night of Loots camping (wait for the story), the big day arrives.  This weekend is all about Jamie and he is the star of the story.  We then do what all good parents do to a pre-race nervous child ……. we feed him and then take Rosie horseriding (wait for the story).

Jamies race is at 1.00 – there are split starts where the Elite Men, u/23 men, Junior men and Youth (his category) will all be battling it out on the same track.  Jamie will be riding at the same time with all his cycling hero’s – this alone was a huge drawcardd

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We say “good luck” and his last words to us were ……”Mom, DO NOT come onto the track, even if you see me lying in the rocks full of blood, DO NOT come and save me”

Oh well ……. this sounds interesting.

The starter starts the race ……. and, very basically, the 40 plus starters in his category must all dash from the start onto an uphill single track technical climb. Jamie and his friend are seeded right at the back.  At the single track you cannot overtake and if someone in front of you wipes out you are stuck behind them and will lose precious time …… the whole race is about time and not being lapped.  Add to this the Elite, U/23 and Junior men are all hacking it out at the same time and they are all bigger, faster and more experienced.  After the first climb you hit a 90 degree pebbly section and go straight into Robs Drop, this is then followed by a jeeptrack climbing section, then steep singletrack and a switchback climb.

Well the start is done and dusted and the next time we see Jamie is at Robs Drop.

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The second half of the course is generally downhill, starting with a fast section known as berm lane.  It’s a series of sharp bermed corners and dips as riders criss-cross a small gorge.  Berm Lane ends with a very intimidating Rock Garden, which many riders opt not to ride and rather take the easier, slower chicken run.

Here, however, Jamie opts for neither of the above ……….. he goes for the “Superman” approach where a rider must lose his bike at the top and go flying without his bike to the bottom – this is a move not sanctioned by Cycling South Africa.   He was lucky we were not there to see his unsanctioned move.

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After flying through the rock garden, a rider then hits a short jeep track, then the riders enter another gorge via a steep drop-off to the right.  Basically the riders are told to let go of their brakes and they must try hard to keep their line as they negotiate tight turns and drops through the gorge.

The gorge is then interuppted by a short climb …….. over two wooden bridges and the riders are back into a high-speed downhill for the last part of the gorge..

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If this isn’t enough the riders must then line themselves up for the most exciting feature ………. The Rabbit Hole, then for good measure the course designers packed into the last 500 meters of the race – Trevors surprise (I have met Trevor), Richards Steps and the Tree Drop before enering the final 200 meters open stretch to the finish line – The competitors in Jamies group must do this 5 Times.

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Getting lapped by the Super Stars (Marco Joubert comming in 2nd) in the 4th lap wasn’t the end of the world, Jamie still made it into top 20 at SA’s. Jamie came in 19th and his friend Nicholas 20th.  An achievement?  I reckon so.  A happy and Good Experience.

Even better was watching my son cheer on Marco Joubert our local hero.

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All in all a weekend of proud moments and new friends.  A special thank you to the Hayter family for opening their farm, and building the tracks for this event.  From Mountain Events to the “never stop talking”  Greg Ritz who made sitting round the campfire an event in itself, and everyone in-between.

Especially to Tyrone Kindness and Robbie from Merida Bikes who both motivated Jamie to even take part in an event like this.  To coach Leon Schepers  who managed not only to get Jamie to stick to a programme (a true miracle)  but gave him opportunities to train like a pro.

As for the safe bit …….. I think we got off lightly – the score still stands Rock Garden 1 – Jamie 0.

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THE LIVING ROOM


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We have a living room.  This living room is exactly what I DIDN’T want as a living room, you know the type of room that no-one ever sits it ……… I remember going to friends homes when I was young and there was this room in most of my friends houses (we didn’t have one).  It had cream carpets, a cream lounge suite, beautiful cushions, tasteful drapes, lovely lamps and works of art tastefully placed in carefully thought out places.  Amongst all this beauty there was always a sense of loneliness in these rooms – this was the sitting room kept for special occasions – to me, it always felt like a “left-out” waste of space and I vowed I would never have one if I ever owned a house.

Homes are meant to be lived in, they are not museums they are houses where memories are made and every inch of space should be used.  Anyway, we don’t use our sitting room – it isn’t hidden away behind a door it is there in the openplanness which is our home ……… it just doesn’t get used …….. ever.

So in this unused space Jamie saw an opportunity.  He gets home from training one night and enters the house – bike and all – through the front door.  Now at the best of times a cyclist chomping around in full kit with cleat shoes pushing his bike is not a pretty sight.  For one thing the shoes make them walk like ducks,  a cyclist in full kit walking is a bit Borat-ish, a bicycle inside a house just isnt great, add to this when Jamie finishes his daily ride everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is full of mud.  The bike is caked in mud, his body is full of mud, even his face is full of mud splatters.  It can be the warmest, sunniest day and Jamie will come home full of mud.

Back to the opportunity.  Jamie calmly minces in, bike and all and parks the bike in the sitting room.

Frans sits there looking to and from Jamie and myself like a spectator at a tennis match ……. his mouth is wide open doing sort of fishy movements – no sound comes out.

I sit there looking just at Jamie.  My mouth is wide open also doing sort of fishy movements   – no sound comes out.

Rosie on the other hand will never let an opportunity go by to point out to Jamie what he is doing wrong – 100% normal 12 year old sister behavior.

“Why are you putting your bike in the lounge????”  She asks just loud enough for the whole of St Francis to hear.

“Get a life …………”.   He answers. 100% normal answer of a 15 year old boy to his sister.

Frans’s fish mouth is the first to find words, “Jamie why don’t you put your bike in the garage?”

“The garage is too dirty”  replies Jamie, “I am trying to look after my bike”.  He has calmly forgotton that his bike is full of mud, he is full of mud, man, even his riding glasses are full of mud.

Now I am really finding it difficult to take a boy seriously who is dressed in full muddy cycling kit, still in his cleats, sunglasses and helmet I am wondering what alien has walked into my home.

Jamie also seems to have calmly forgotten about the other 3 bicycles that he owns that are safely and quite happily living in the garage.

So now I am beginning to see method in Jamies madness.  The sitting room is unused.  No memories are made there.  There is a little voice in my brain saying “why not”

Before I know it the words spill out before the brain has time to process ……. “why not?”

Frans looks at me …… you know that look a husband gives to a wife when she is treading on uneven kid ground.  Its a sort of look, the eyes narrow, the head gives a little shake, and then the eyes move in a sidewards upwards direction.

What he is actually saying is ….. “That is the most idiotic thing I have ever heard, STOP TALKING NOW!!!!!!, come upstairs so we can discuss this without the kids hearing”

But OH NO!  mouth is in full swing here and brain has shut down.

“Frans, I seem to remember you actually building a boat in our living room once”,  what he has forgotten in those days we only had one place to sit, no TV room, no seperate dining room – just one place ……….. and he built a boat in it.

The shakey head is going a bit stronger here, Jamie and Rosie are looking on with interest – I can actually see their ears flapping.

“We dont use the living room ……… so why not?”

The brain starts catching up ……. I know my kids, once you give them an inch – or in this case 1.8 meters x 65 cm – they will take a whole room.

I can hear Rosies mind calculating how fast she can get a horse, hay and water in the room so we can have a new addition to the family.

Jamie is checking out the space and mentally working out where his workbench can stand, and how he is going to fit a personalized bike workshop in there.

Frans is pondering how much bigger this living room is and whether or not he should start construction of another boat.

Me on the other hand is punching myself in the mouth!!!!!

In that one single moment I realized why my friends parents had this “room” in their houses.  We all need a sanctuary.  A place of beauty, serenity and peace.  A place where the word cluttered doesn’t even hit its stratosphere.  I have it in my unused living room and I was just about to throw it all away – I need that unused space of beauty in my house.

So the end of the tale is ……. Frans doesn’t get a new spot to build a boatie thingie, Rosie must realize that horses belong at Homestead Estate and that is it.

Jamie on the other hand is still putting the bike in the sitting room ……. but …….. when he does, it is clean and shiny – lets face it a Merida Big Nine is a thing of beauty after all.

Lekker Okes


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Cycling takes a huge amount of dedication, training and stamina.   But it also takes a huge amount of commitment from the supporting team of a cycling teen (read parents).  Actually this is also true for any sport that your kid is mal over.

This Saturday the alarm went off at 3.00 am, and I groggily got out of my warm, soft, snuggly bed.  Frans as normal was snoring lightly and contentedly in our warm, soft, snugly bed.

I go and wake up Jamie.

“Are you joking”  the first words rip out of his mouth.

Ummmmm DO I LOOK LIKE THE TYPE OF PERSON THAT MAKES JOKES AT 3.00 AM IN THE MORNING!!!

“No sweetie, you have got to get up for the Addo Cycle race”.  Voops!  He is out of bed in a shot and jumping into his monkey suit and shirt.  He efficiently packs his bag, gets himself breakfast, showers, brushes his teeth and hair and tidies his romm.  Each one of these actions a miracle in themselves because not once do I have to tell him to do anything.

He gets into the car on time – I am gobsmacked, it is 3.15 am and I haven’t raised my voice once.

Off we go to meet the rest of his mad friends at the Links Circle.

When we get there a bakkie pulls up and we get out the car.

“You look good for this time of the morning”  says a voice.

It is Grant, he is always nice, always chirpy and me thinks is long overdue for an eye test.

Anyway, off they go, four dedicated cyclists off to a 6.30 am start in Addo, 2 hours away.

My day goes as my day goes and at about 1 I get a call that they have just left PE.  The car sounds like there is a PARTY of NOTE going on.

“Whats cooking in the car Jamie?”

“Oh, the guys are just chatting “

I WANT SOME OF WHATEVER THEY ARE ON!!!

At 2-ish I get the call to fetch him at Grant.

“How did you do?”

“I did it in 2 hours fifty something ish minutes” he replies with a big grin on his face.  He is filthy, he smells odd and he has a very peculiar tan.

“But where did you come ….. 10th, 20th ….”

“I dunno”

Now this got me thinking.  Jamie has done 3 Addo races.   Each time he has come home happy, filthy, smelly and with a peculiar tan.  To date we have NEVER known where he has come in the race.  We have never even looked at the race results.  Did it ever make him feel different about going out there and putting his heart into a race – NOPE.  What did nark him was missing the lucky draw prizes when his name was pulled and he wasn’t there – but that is tough and that is life.

Anyway, all of a sudden over the last year it seems to have become very important WHERE one of us came in a race.  Horseriding means if you come first you get a sash and a rosette.  Sailing means you get ………. um …………. I am not quite sure what you get because there is always some kind of groovy handicap system and it just confuses me.  At cycling you get to stand on a podium for a milli-second get a medal and your photo taken and that is it.  Me, I am easy, I am consistently last in every race I do – I am happy last and there are always new, interesting and fun people at the back of races.

Add to this pressure, Jamie has recently secured a cycling sponsorship from Merida Bikes and Custom Bikes, and, although there is no pressure for him to get podium finishes, he almost feels he should do well to do well by his sponsors.

Pressure, Pressure, Pressure.

Now again this got me thinking.  Yes we look in admiration at the athletes on the podium, but, hey there are only 3 of them.  Of the 1 050 starters of this race only 3 get to stand on the podium.  But ……… 1 020 other okes are also in need of recognition for just starting the race.  Yes we remember the people on the podium, but the ones we really remember are the ones who threw us a bomb when we had a flat,  who pulled us out the bush when we had a bad fall and the ones we had a really good laugh with on the journey.    We remember the guy who came second who goes to the person who came first and shakes their hand.  Unfortunately we also remember the guys who sulk when they don’t win and blame their bikes for bad performance.

At the moment cycling doesn’t have many mentors.  I think sponsors should start looking at those “lekker okes” on the bikes to market their products.  The ones that make the races fun and making other riders want to go back for more.  The ones hakking it out with the masses and loving the sport for the sake of the sport and not for the medals.

As with anything life is a journey, and if we are constantly trying to be at the front it will get lonely.  Being in the masses means you will not miss out, but if it means that through hard work and dedication the front is the place for you, remember the guys behind you and remember to cheer them on, shake their hands and become a “lekker oke”.

HERO’S


Some people are just different to others.  In fact, there is something about them that just makes the rest of us feel a tad inadequate.

There is Niel Armstrong who was the first person to tippi-toe on the moon.  Martin Luther King had a couple of dreams.  Oscar is running with no legs.  But ya know what?  I only get to see these okes on the TV and they do not impact my daily life.

In my house I have my own hero.

No ………… it is not the dog!

So, of course we are going to get back to the Karoo-to-Coast cycle race ……. ya know the one – the 100 kays of pure hell – between Uniondale and Knysna – not for the faint hearted.

There are literally thousands of cyclists there.  They are primed, they have trained, some have bought new bikes they are all just embracing the atmosphere.

Frans and Jamie are there with their bikes, Jamie who is able to do the race without a doubt – but we are still not sure if he is ALLOWED to cycle.  Frans who is ALLOWED to cycle but we have still to prove his ability to cycle 100 kays of pure hell.

On the morning of the race we get up, along with 3 600 other cyclists Frans and Jamie go to their start pens and at 7.30 the starter gun goes.  I have really looked and looked but as far as I can see Frans has the only bike with absolutely no shocks,  its going to be a bumpy ride.  I also saw a oke with bare feet!  That is just madness!

We have sent Jamie off with his Dad to give moral support – I think Frans is going to need it.  Well off they go !

Rosie and I jump into the car and head off to the Avontuur crossing, one of the few places where you can actually see the cyclists go past.  From there on it is just one big rocky, hilly road to Knysna.

Jamie comes speeding past with two other okes in Pennypinchers gear.  It seems like his Dad hooked up with some tortoises at the beginning of the race and he told Jamie to go on and stay with the Pennypinchers okes.  About ½ an hour later Frans comes past.  He is happy, he looks like he is having fun and we all give him a great big cheer.

Now this is where the Hero bit starts.  If Frans was me, and it was me riding the bike, but he isn’t and I wasn’t – he would have got off the bike at the Avontuur crossover, put his bike in the car and we could have all gone on our merry way to meet Jamie at the finish.  Remember he only started cycling 6 weeks ago, he has a 20 year old bike, with no shocks, cleats, well basically nothing except 2 wheels and a frame – OH and he did wear his old 20 year old helmet.  He received his first cycling shirt the day before.

So off they all cycle down the dirt road towards Knysna – 84 kays before we see them again.

Rosie and I set off to Knysna via the Ousthoorn/George road.  And by the time we hit the George petrol station we hear that the first riders are in ……….. no, it wasn’t Frans.

We get to Knysna and make our way to the top of Simola Hill the next spot where we can see the riders.  As we get there we  see paramedics rushing towards the top of the hill, a cyclist is down.  An ambulance, paramedics,  the NSRI and first aiders rush to him.  We see them doing compressions, they pump and pump,  eventually the Police arrive, eventually the Morgue arrives.  The rider has passed away at the scene.   All I can think about ……. 10 odd Kilometres away, someone is waiting for him at the finish ……. he will not be arriving.

Shortly after the Mortuary  van leaves, Jamie and the two Pennypinchers okes arrive strong and happy at the top of Simola.  They regroup and make their way towards the finish – all downhill and tar from here on.

Immediately I phone Frans ……. “Get off your bike and get into the Meatwagon (the name of the collection truck) and come home”  I say,  I know Frans isn’t cycling fit, we have seen a fit person pass away and all I want is Frans to come to the finish on or off a bike.

“Tan ….” He says …. “At the rate I am going I will be fine – and I am the last person they allowed through the two-o-clock cut-off”,  now this was one of Frans two aims for the race, to a.  Make the two-o-clock cut-off point, and b. (this would be the cherry) to finish the race.  He tells me they literally passed the barrier tape over his back and said the dreaded words “Dis the laaste OKE” .  Frans reckons there were many people behind him.

Rosie and I start waiting.  We know Jamie is safe at the finish.  We wait and wait ….. no Frans.  Eventually I crack, I go to the NSRI guy – no he cant help.  I go to the waterpoint – no they cant tell me where my husband is.  Eventually (now I am really in a tizz),  a guy on a quad-bike stops next to me.  “Whats wrong?”   He asks, before I can answer he looks at me and says “Hey you are Frans Lootss wife”,  thank  goodness!  I explain Frans hasn’t come past, he phones the meatwagon and Frans isn’t on it, he phones the race-organiser and Frans isn’t listed as injured. But he is still missing.  I am worried.

The NSRI guy eventually tells me to get into his bakkie and we will find him.  We get into the bakkie and we ride down, down, down (and it is steep) – now remember the cyclists are riding up, up, up and it is steep.  Right at the bottom we find Frans and a whole lot of other cyclists.  They are happy and now I am happy.  Frans gets to the top and heads off to the finish.

My Hero …….. Frans, you did it.  In your own time, within your capabilities and on the equipment you had available.  The guy who passed away must have been a good cyclist because when the incident happened he would have finished in a 4hour odd time.  I think that it was his time to go – just that.

As for Jamie, well he had his own experience.  For the first time ever he cycled in a race where he enjoyed it for the experience.  He rode with guys who were riding as a team and they constantly regrouped, checked on each other and stuck as a pack.  I wish Jamie and his friends can do this more often instead of going flet-out each time they ride in their events.  Learning to look out for your friends, instead of worrying if your friend is beating you just lends to a more enjoyable experience.

Frans finishing the race didn’t have South Africa glued to their TV’s, its not going to change the planet or how South Africans feel about each other,  but, I really think each and every one of us have a hero living in our homes.  It may be the morning that someone makes you a cup of coffee, or, just greets you at the door with a “Welcome Home”.  It may be the effort your child puts into their school work, or just the respect you all show each other.

Families should be there for each other, stick together as a pack, look out for each other instead of going flet-out all the time on each persons own mission. 

It will all end in a more enjoyable experience that is the ride of life.